Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Fire Triangle

Blue Collar Prepping has visited the many ways to make fire plenty of times because it is just that important. One thing I've not seen presented, though, is the science of how fire works. Knowing this science is why some folks seem far more successful at making fires, especially in tough situations. This knowledge is also vital in controlling and extinguishing fires.

Fire needs three things to burn: fuel, oxygen, and heat (sometimes stated as an ignition source). Taken together, these are called the fire triangle. If one of those elements isn't present, a fire cannot burn.

  1. Fuel: A fire has to have fuel to burn, that much is obvious. What is less obvious is that it has to be quality fuel, dry, and in sufficient quantity so as not to immediately burn through it all. Quality fuel means you need wood that is solid and not rotten. Ideally this fuel is hardwood, which burns hotter and longer and makes better coals.
  2. Oxygen: If you strangle a fire, it dies. This is shown very strongly in my chip burning posts, when a pile of ground up Doritos refused to burn whereas whole chips ignited easily; the reason for this failure is that not enough air could get to the pile to allow the fuel to burn. Make sure your tinder bundles are fluffy and that when you build your fire lay, you allow plenty of room for air to circulate.
  3. Heat: A fire requires something to start the burning. Sparks and standing flames like matches or lighters are the most common source of ignition, but they're not the only ones: chemical reactions such as potassium permanganate create strong flames, and friction fire methods use nothing but heat to create an ember. No matter your method, you have to have something to set the fuel alight.

If any of these elements are not present, you will not have fire, which makes this important knowledge regarding extinguishing fires. If you remove the fuel, the fire will burn out, but the quickest and most common way to extinguish a fire is through removing the oxygen it needs either via water, a chemical fire extinguisher, or other means. 

With a little applied science, you'll find your fires start more easily and burn more efficiently.


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